Hot on the post about Twinings trying to break the brand associations it has with tea, here is one about innocent smoothie's plans to also stretch its brand. The front page of Marketing this week reported on rumours that innocent is planning to extend into food with the launch of a "breakfast pot", made of fruit, yoghurt and muesli. It will be promoted as a 'yummy health snack' that is an alternative to cereal.
So. What do we think?
First of all, it might be a porky pie (lie). When I met Dan and the team at Fruit Towers last year, I learnt that the company did have a team looking at brand extension. But this team was focused on healthy drinks. Assuming the story is true, it poses some interesting questions about the challenges of brand stretching.
Challenge: breaking brand associations
In their own words, innocent is famous for "tasty little drinks" made from "Fruit, the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit". Their product equities could be summarised simply as:
- Fruit (100%)
Then there is of course the "sizzle" of the brand: its funky, fun, friendly personality.
The breakfast pot breaks one of these equities, by going from drinks into food. It bends another by going from fruit to fruit, yoghurt and cereal. But the other three equities are respected: fresh, tasty and healthy. And, the brand is already strongly linked with breakfast. They even have a yoghurt thickie positioned specifically at this occasion, made with oats.
But you know what? Brand equity is not what will make or break the breakfast pot. There are millions of innocent fans who would love to try a new product like this from the brand. And assuming the product tastes great, they are likely to re-purchase. And having done work on the area of "missed breakfast" (c. 15-20% of people in Europe skip this important meal every day), this is an opportunity.
The real challenge: breaking the business model
The bigger challenge is the business model for breakfast pots. In many cases of botched brand extension, the proposition and brand fit were good. The problem was related to the change in business model required.
We might ask questions like:
- Can we make as much money out of breakfast pots as we do drinks?
- Where do we place the product on shelf? Next to cereals is tough as there are no chillers. Next to drinks, and you might not get shoppers in a breakfast mind-set
- Can we get into out-of-home distribution to market to people on the go who have missed breakfast? What about sampling or selling at train stations?
- Who is the supermarket buyer for this sort of product? Are they different from the people who buy our drinks?
- What is the competitive response likely to be from the cereal companies likely to be, and are our pockets deep enough to fight back if they do retaliate? The likes of Kellogg's and Nestle no doubt have already tested similar products, but have not launched owing to their own business model issues (esp. going from ambient to chilled distribution). However, if they see innocent stealing out of their bowls, will they sit there and watch?
The other concern is to do with focus of management time and the risk of neglecting the core business, as discussed in the post on This Water.
So, watch this space to see if the innocent breakfast pot makes it to market, what it tastes like and if its a tasty little business or a brand stretch too far. And if you are looking at your own brand extension, consider thinking about the stretch in business model, not just brand brand equities.